The federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled Budget 2018 in the House of Commons on February 27, 2018. Budget 2018, titled “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class”, is guided by a new Gender Results Framework and commits $21.B in new spending over six years. Some of the areas that Budget 2018 focuses on are gender equality, childcare, environmental protection, climate change, entrepreneurship strategy for women, investment in innovation, exploring possibilities for a universal pharmacare plan, and supports for Indigenous People.
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) welcomes the federal government as a partner in building our thriving communities. AUMA is pleased to see that the federal government responded to municipalities’ calls to fund opioid treatment, which is urgently needed in many communities across Alberta. The budget continues infrastructure investment in municipalities and provides much needed financial support for municipalities to plan their infrastructure. Broadband internet in small communities has long required federal attention. This budget provides $100M over five years to explore next generation of rural broadband, such as low Earth orbit satellites, which would be a positive step for smaller centres. AUMA echoes the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ criticism that the budget missed a key opportunity to kickstart the National Housing Strategy, as many municipalities are seeking a federal partner to renew their affordable and social housing supplies.
We are pleased to see an $80M investment in reinforcing existing RCMP operations. This funding will provide much-needed staff to fill many vacate positions in Alberta communities. Crime prevention and community policing have been an ongoing priority for municipalities. AUMA believes the long-term solution must come from a partnership among municipal, provincial and federal governments including a new police funding model for Alberta.
Budget 2018 will provide $62.5M over five years for public education initiatives related to cannabis, as well as $20M over five years to assess the impact of cannabis use on the mental health and to support research on cannabis addiction. As there are some gaps in our current understanding of cannabis and its effects, as well as its use by Canadians, the results of this research will be crucial to informing future policy development at all levels of government
AUMA welcomes the federal government’s confirmation to share cannabis revenue with the provinces. This federal commitment aligns with what AUMA has advocated on behalf of the members. Municipalities must receive a fair share of cannabis exercise taxes to cover the cost associated with legalization. AUMA believes it is time for the province to partner with municipalities by taking the following actions:
- Provide 70 per cent of the cannabis excise taxes it receives from the federal government to municipalities to offset their costs associated with cannabis legalization.
- Establish a $30 million fund in Budget 2018/19 to help municipalities offset the costs of transitioning to the new legislative and regulatory framework.
- Conduct a review of the provincial-municipal cannabis tax sharing agreement in three years’ time to ensure municipalities have the resources they need to fulfill their new roles and responsibilities.